Case Page

Case Page: 303 Creative v. Elenis: Religious Liberty and Free Speech At the Supreme Court

by | Jul 2, 2023 | Case | 0 comments

303 Creative v. Elenis is the case of a Colorado website designer who is defending her right to use her artistic talents in a way that is consistent with her religious beliefs.  After working for various businesses and organizations in marketing and graphic design, Lorie started her own business, 303 Creative, in order to have the freedom to use her artistic passion to convey and celebrate messages she was passionate about.  For her, 303 Creative gave her the opportunity to pour her heart, soul and imagination into celebrating marriage by creating a one-of-a-kind wedding website for each couple.  Lorie is a Christian who believes that marriage is intended to be between one man and one woman.  Because of her deeply-held religious beliefs, she was unwilling to use her artistic expression to create messages that would violate her religious convictions.

Colorado officials ruled that the state’s public accommodations law required Lorie to use her creative talents to design a website that would embrace and celebrate marriages between LGBT partners, without any regard for Lorie’s own rights of religious liberty and free speech under the First Amendment.  Lorie appealed through the courts.

“The Colorado law, if found to be constitutional, would literally mean that the government has authority to dictate what individuals can and can’t say – regardless of their own beliefs and conscience.” Randall Wenger, Chief Counsel – Independence Law Center

The Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit ruled that the rights of LGBT customers to require that Lorie use her artistically unique talent to design their wedding website took precedence over Lorie’s rights to practice her occupation consistent with her faith.  The court held that because Lori’s services were deemed by the court to offer customers a product of unique quality and nature that no other designer could replicate, Lori could be compelled, under Colorado’s law, to design websites for all people regardless of any conflicts with her religious beliefs.  Such a decision gave Lorie only two options:  violate her own religious convictions or leave her occupation altogether. 

Thankfully, the Supreme Court overturned the Tenth Circuit and found in favor of 303 Creative. “This is a monumental win for freedom of speech for creative professionals. The court recognized that it is a violation of Lorie’s speech rights to force her to create a message with which she disagrees,” said Jeremy Samek, Senior Counsel at the Independence Law Center. “Lorie no longer has to choose between her faith and her business – this decision will protect fundamental liberties for decades to come.”

From the brief:

The stakes here are high. Those seeking to make an example of traditionally-minded wedding professionals can use today’s information technology to find those professionals precisely in order to be denied service and thereby force such professionals out of public life. A loss by 303 Creative here will inevitably allow the weaponization of public-accommodations law.